ITHACA, N.Y. –– The City of Ithaca Parks and Forestry Division released a public notice Thursday regarding the progression of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation in the area, warning homeowners to keep an eye out for the pest and monitor ash trees –– the EAB’s preferred snack.

The EAB, which was first spotted in Ithaca back in 2018, is an invasive pest that eats the tissue just beneath the bark of ash trees and will eventually cause tree death. As they have had a few years to feed on local ash trees, plants are now beginning to show a decline in health and vigor due to the insect infestation.

“We have noticed in some neighborhoods there are very large ash trees that span over multiple backyards and we have noticed some are showing signs of EAB infestation,” the notice states. “If you have an ash tree on your property, there are steps that should be taken soon to protect the tree and your property.”

Signs that an Ash tree is infested with EAB includes thin canopy or dead branches in the top and center of the canopy. There will also likely be woodpecker damage, called “blonding” where sections of bark take on a light blonde color (as opposed to the normal gray color) due to woodpeckers’ excavation to find EAB larva under the bark.

Lightly infested ash trees can be treated with pesticides that will kill the insects and help to preserve the tree. However, pesticide applications can be costly and the pesticides will need to be reapplied periodically as the insect pests will persist in the area for a decade or more. The city recommends contacting a certified pesticide applicator if you choose this option.

Infested trees that are not treated with pesticides will die. Therefore the other option to consider is removal of the infested trees –– an action that Cornell University recently decided to engage in. Whether the tree completely dies in one year or over the course of a few years, dead and dying trees are hazardous to the health and safety of people and property around them.

The city is stressing that completely dead trees are much more hazardous and generally more expensive to remove than trees that still have life in them. If you have an ash tree on your property, postponing action will have a greater cost later compared to taking action to mitigate the risks now.

The ash trees along the city streets are inspected annually by city staff and are being managed for the infestation.

More information can be found online here, including a comprehensive document “Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash.” If you need help identifying your tree as an ash click here, and
signs of EAB in ash trees can be found here.

If after consulting the attached documents, you have a question about whether the tree in your yard is an Ash, you can contact our office at Parks and Forestry and they can confirm tree species through photos (leaf, twig and bark) or a site visit if necessary. Please contact the Forestry Technician, Kevin Vorstadt at kvorstadt@cityofithaca.org

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com